icon


icon
/uy"kon/, n.
1. a picture, image, or other representation.
2. Eastern Ch. a representation of some sacred personage, as Christ or a saint or angel, painted usually on a wood surface and venerated itself as sacred.
3. a sign or representation that stands for its object by virtue of a resemblance or analogy to it.
4. Computers. a picture or symbol that appears on a monitor and is used to represent a command, as a file drawer to represent filing.
5. Semiotics. a sign or representation that stands for its object by virtue of a resemblance or analogy to it.
Also, eikon, ikon (for defs. 1, 2).
[1565-75; < L < Gk eikón likeness, image, figure]
Syn. 2. See image.

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In Eastern Orthodoxy, the representation of sacred persons or events in murals, mosaics, or paintings on wood.

After the Iconoclastic Controversy of the 8th–9th century, which disputed the religious function and meaning of icons (see iconoclasm), the Eastern churches formulated an official doctrine that approved their use, stating that since God had assumed material form in the person of Jesus, he and other sacred personages could be represented in works of art. Usually depicting Jesus or Mary but also sometimes saints, icons are relied on as objects of veneration and as tools for instruction.

"Annunciation," reverse of a double-sided painted panel icon from Constantinople, early ...

Hirmer Fotoarchiv, Munchen

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      in literature, a description of a person or thing, usually using a figure of speech. To semioticians, icons are signs, verbal or otherwise, with extra-systemic resemblances to the persons or things they denote. The Verbal Icon: Studies in the Meaning of Poetry (1954) by W.K. Wimsatt is an important New Criticism text on the subject.

▪ religious art
 in Eastern (Eastern Orthodoxy) Christian tradition, a representation of sacred personages or events in mural painting, mosaic, or wood. After the iconoclastic controversy of the 8th–9th century, which disputed the religious function and meaning of icons, the Eastern Church formulated the doctrinal basis for their veneration: since God had assumed material form in the person of Jesus Christ, he also could be represented in pictures. Icons are considered an essential part of the church and are given special liturgical veneration. They also serve as mediums of instruction for the uneducated faithful through the iconostasis (q.v.), a screen shielding the altar, covered with icons depicting scenes from the New Testament, church feasts, and popular saints. In the classical Byzantine and Orthodox tradition, iconography is not a realistic but a symbolical art; its function is to express in line and colour the theological teaching of the church.

Additional Reading
Kurt Weitzmann, The Icon: Holy Images—Sixth to Fourteenth Century (1978).

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Universalium. 2010.

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